These Are the Transgender Bathroom Wars, in a Nutshell

These laws are fueled by pure fear and intolerance of, and ignorance about, what it means to be transgender.
04/22/2016 04:30 pm ET Updated Apr 23, 2017

Arguments over what bathroom is most appropriate for transgender people are heated. And they have serious consequences. Are gender-neutral facilities the answer? (tedeytan/Flickr)

Over the past couple of years, transgender activism has become more mainstream, thanks in part to highly visible trans celebs like Laverne Cox, Caitlyn Jenner, and Jazz Jennings. And anti-trans pushback has become fierce.

That includes anti-LGBT state laws, several aimed directly at limiting transgender individuals' ability to do something other people (cisgender people) take for granted: pee in the public bathroom that matches their gender.

It's actually a huge deal. And it seems like everyone's getting it on it now, from presidential candidates to major retailers. Here's what people are saying about it.

What are the laws?

North Carolina governor Pat McCrory, who supported the state's anti-transgender law. (Hal Goodtree/Flickr)

Here's a quick rundown of the anti-transgender bathroom laws:

North Carolina: Everyone must use the bathroom matching the sex on their birth certificate. It's still unclear how this law will be enforced.

South Carolina: There's a bill -- not a law yet -- that would limit which bathrooms transgender people can use. So do several other states.

Tennessee and Virginia: An anti-trans bathroom bill was introduced, but failed, and will likely come up again in a few months. A similar law just failed in Virginia.

Some cities have ordinances (city-level laws) banning trans people from using the facilities that match their gender identity, like Houston, Texas. And some school districts have rules that force trans students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that match the sex listed on their birth certificate.

What's the thinking behind these laws?

ESPN fired Curt Schilling over a Facebook post characterizing transgender women as dangerous. (timfortimtim/Flickr)

These laws are fueled by pure fear and intolerance of, and ignorance about, what it means to be transgender.

Many people fear that male sexual predators would pretend to be transgender women to gain access to women's rooms to prey on young targets.

Others simply don't like transgender people or flat out don't believe that a person who seemed to be one gender as a baby can actually be another gender.

Former MLB pitcher Curt Schilling, an analyst at ESPN sports, posted a picture on Facebook of a burly person in a dress with suggestive cutouts and a wig, along with the text,

"Let him in! To the restroom with your daughter or else you're a narrow minded, judgmental, racist bigot who needs to die!"

The implication here is clearly that transgender people are deviants who are dangerous to girls and young women -- and to think so is forbidden by the PC police.

But Schilling got fired over it, for being insensitive and intolerant.

Presidential hopeful Ted Cruz supports these laws too. He echoes what many others have argued: that allowing transgender women to use the women's bathroom would put "little girls alone in a bathroom with grown men."

What's the reality?

Not actually dangerous. (yooperann/Flickr)

The idea that transgender people -- or people pretending to be transgender -- spy on or even attack children and straight people in bathrooms is actually 100% myth.

That's right, there is currently zero evidence that "men dressed as women" will go into a bathroom and assault anyone.

In fact, in encounters involving trans people in bathrooms, you know who does get attacked? Trans people. A survey of 93 transgender adults in DC found that 68% had been verbally attacked in a public restroom, while 9% had been physically assaulted. Over half developed health problems like urinary tract infections from avoiding using bathrooms in public.

And ironically, it's anti-transgender legislation that will put men -- transgender men -- in women's restrooms, and transgender women in men's rooms.

Here's how laws like these affect trans people

If you're transgender and need help, call the Trans Lifeline at (877) 565-8860. (SaudiSoul/Flickr)

Though supporters of these laws that ban trans people from using their chosen restroom say the goal is to protect girls and boys and women, who really gets harmed is transgender people.

Since the North Carolina law went into effect, the Trans Lifeline, a crisis hotline by and for transgender people, is getting unprecedented numbers of calls from suicidal trans people since the bill was passed.

The number of people calling the hotline has doubled, with over 200 calls per day.

This sad effect isn't isolated, either. A study by Georgia State University has connected anti-transgender policies with increased suicide rates among transgender students.

There's been backlash against the bigotry and the laws

Women at a Pride event. (Foto | Filip/Flickr)

Several large companies have loudly denounced the bathroom laws. Paypal and the NBA cut ties with North Carolina over its new law, while hundreds of other companies based in affected states have protested, and performing artists like Bruce Springsteen and many others have canceled shows in North Carolina.

And Target just publicly announced that their team members and customers can use whichever bathroom they so choose, no matter what state they're in.

Of course, some people are angry at Target -- there's even a boycott Target page on Facebook.

Believe it or not, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination -- Mr. Donald J. Trump -- has come out against these laws:

"People go. They use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate. There has been so little trouble. And the problem with what happened in North Carolina is the strife and the economic -- I mean, the economic punishment that they're taking."

He then said that he would be OK with Caitlyn Jenner using whichever bathroom she chose if she visited Trump Tower.

But these laws might be on their way out, anyway. A transgender teenager in Virginia won a federal case for the right to use the boys' bathroom. According to the American Civil Liberties Union,

"The ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit marks the first time a federal appeals court has determined that Title IX protects the rights of transgender students to use sex-segregated facilities that are consistent with their gender identity."

In other words, this sets a new precedent for protecting transgender rights in schools -- and may eventually render anti-trans laws null and void.

This article was written by Alison Maney and originally appeared on Kicker. Kicker explains the most important, compelling things going on in the world and empowers you to get in the know, make up your own mind, and take action. For more, check out the Kicker site, like their Facebook page, or subscribe to their email newsletter.